After the Judge Makes a Decision
If the plaintiff wins at the hearing, the judge may set up a twelve month installment plan for payments from the Defendant. The defendant has thirty days to file an appeal at the Common Pleas Court. If the defendant wishes to appeal, he or she must file a Notice of Appeal with the prothonotary at the county courthouse. The Notice of Appeal will be served on the Magisterial District Judge who made the decision along with the plaintiff. The plaintiff cannot take any steps to collect money from the Defendant based on the Magisterial District Court’s judgment until the appeal has been decided. The plaintiff can also appeal the Magisterial District Judge’s decision if the judge ruled for the defendant at the hearing.
Filing a Case in McKean County Magisterial District Court
Claims for $12,000 or less can also be filed in a court called common pleas court. But, the Common Pleas Court is more formal and expensive than Magisterial District Court. Also, you need an attorney to file your case in common pleas court. In Magisterial District Court, an attorney is not required.
McKean County Small Claims Court
Small Claims courts are in Pennsylvania are generally called Magisterial District Courts. A lawyer is not required. The claim, or amount in controversy, cannot exceed $12,000.00. A filing fee is required and depends on the amount of money in dispute. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will need to pay for the defendant(s) to be served. These costs can potentially be recovered by you if you win the case.
Types of Cases Handled by a Magisterial District Judge in McKean County
A Magisterial District Judge is a judge elected by the people of the district to handle certain types of cases including criminal (preliminary hearings and arraignments, traffic offenses, municipal code violations) and civil (landlord/tenant cases and cases where the amount in dispute does not exceed $12,000).
Where to File a Small Claims Court Case?
The Pennsylvania courts are divided by county and then into districts. Each district has a Magisterial District Judge. A case should be filed in the Magisterial District where:
- the business is located or where the defendant lives
- the contract was signed or where the contract was supposed to be performed
- the accident happened
- the property from the case is kept
The plaintiff should contact the Magisterial District Court where the plaintiff thinks the case should be filed and inquire if it is the correct court. The plaintiff can also inquire what the filing fee for the case will be. The filing fee will be paid when the Complaint is filed with the court. The complaint form can be found under “Civil Complaint” here. If the plaintiff plans to include information that could be deemed confidential, the plaintiff needs to complete the Confidential Information Form (which is found on the same page).
McKean County Magisterial District Court Small Claims Court Hearing
After the claim is filed, the clerk will usually set a hearing between 12 and 60 days of the filing of the claim. Prior to the hearing, you should gather all documents and papers related to your case. Both the plaintiff and defendant should also arrange to have any witnesses with knowledge about the case present in court on the date of the hearing. At the hearing, there will usually be the judge, clerk, plaintiff, defendant, and any witnesses for both sides. Because the hearing is open to the public, there may be members of the public watching court from the gallery (along with maybe other parties waiting for their cases to be called). At the beginning of the hearing, the Magisterial District Judge will explain the procedures. Plaintiff and Defendant will both be sworn in at the beginning to present testimony to the court. At the hearing, the judge will give the plaintiff an opportunity to testify about the circumstances surrounding the case. During this time, the plaintiff should present any evidence supporting the case including paperwork, receipts, records, photographs, or videos of the case. The court will then give the Defendant a chance to ask questions to the plaintiff. Once the plaintiff is done, the witnesses that the plaintiff brought will also be given a chance to provide testimony. The defendant will also be granted the opportunity to ask questions of these witnesses as well. After the plaintiff is finished presenting his or her case, the court will allow the defendant a chance to present a defense (including testimony from the defendant). The defendant can also bring witnesses to provide testimony to the judge as well. The judge will usually make a decision at the hearing (or within five days).
McKean County Magisterial Districts
McKean County has 4 Magisterial Districts which are:
The Magisterial District Judge for 48-1-01 is Dominic A. Cercone . The 48-1-01 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:22 Davis Street Bradford, PA 16701
The phone number for 48-1-01 Magisterial District is: 814-368-4075. The fax number for 48-1-01 Magisterial District is: 814-368-4825.
The Magisterial District Judge for 48-3-02 is William K. Todd . The 48-3-02 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:625 East Water Street Smethport, PA 16749
The phone number for 48-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-887-5743. The fax number for 48-3-02 Magisterial District is: 814-887-5431.
The Magisterial District Judge for 48-3-03 is Richard W. Luther . The 48-3-03 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:1185 East Main Street Bradford, PA 16701
The phone number for 48-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-362-7767. The fax number for 48-3-03 Magisterial District is: 814-362-2411.
The Magisterial District Judge for 48-3-04 is David R. Engman . The 48-3-04 Magisterial District courthouse is located at:116 Fraley Street Kane, PA 16735
The phone number for 48-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-837-7131. The fax number for 48-3-04 Magisterial District is: 814-837-7134.
Types of Cases in McKean County Small Claims Court
Two types of civil cases are generally heard in Magisterial District Court in McKean County: negligence and contract actions. A contract is where two parties enter into an agreement (either written or oral). Contracts are common and used in a wide variety of situations including between:
- home improvements between a contractor and a homeowner
- insurance companies and their insureds to provide services
- credit card companies when providing credit to consumers
Breach of contract occurs when one party does not complete what they are required to do under the contract. Negligence is where a person or party has a responsibility to use reasonable care to protect others from damages and fails to do so. Negligence actions usually arise in an automobile accident or other times where someone sustains personal injuries or property damage.
Prior to Filing a Small Claims Court Claim in McKean County Magisterial District Court
Prior to filing a claim, it is recommended that you send a demand letter to the defendant asking for payment. A demand letter can be the easiest and shortest way to resolve your case. In addition to the amount you are requesting, you should also set a reasonable deadline for the defendant to respond by. If the defendant does not agree to the terms in your letter (or fails to respond), you may consider filing your case. Prior to filing your claim, you need to ascertain the name and physical address of the party you intend to sue. The Magisterial Court cannot accept a post office box. If the party you intend on suing is not an individual, it is important to learn what corporate form the business is using. The Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau is a great resource for assisting with this task (Phone: 717-787-1057). Before going to the Magisterial District Court to file your claim, you should know the following information:
- plaintiff’s name and address
- name and address of the person you want to sue
- the amount of the claim
- a short statement concerning why you believe you are entitled to that amount of money (you should include dates and enough information so the person you are suing knows why you are suing them)
The court allows a plaintiff to file a complaint through the mail, but a plaintiff should file it in person so the court clerk can notify you if there are any problems with your complaint. The plaintiff can also pay the filing fee in person at the courthouse. In addition to the filing fee, the plaintiff will have to pay a fee to have the Defendant served. A Defendant can be served by certified mail or in person by a deputy sheriff or constable. Personal service can be more expensive than certified mail but can be quicker than certified mail.